Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wells cathedral- the scissor arches

Wells is famous for these 'scissor arches',
put in to stabilize the central crossing tower.
I think they are pretty gorgeous, myself!

Literary Connections

I read a quote somewhere that said
'you find the England you are looking for.'
Being a bookworm it is not surprising
that I see literary connections everywhere.
For example, this pub in Winchester-
the "Crown and Anchor"-
brought to mind a book by Diana Wynne Jones
called "The Homeward Bounders"
in which the symbol of a crown and anchor
was very sinister indeed...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I Adore English Parish Churches

These are views of St. Andrew's Church in Minterne Magna.
Aside from the charming name,
I stopped because it was right on the road
as I was heading down a rural route to Dorchester
(to see an iron age hill fort known as Maiden Castle.)
I took a quick tour around.
It contains the tombs of Winston Churchill's ancestors.
See, this is why I like English parish churches so much.
Each of them has a story,
a connection,
something interesting about it.
And many have lovely examples of art as well.

English Food

English food is actually great stuff
(forget the stereotypes about boiled beef and watery vegetables.)
Full English breakfast is a great way to start the day,
though I didn't have the whole thing very often--
I usually just want toast and eggs and mushrooms.
I LOVE mushrooms with breakfast!
Save my main calories for later.
Like with fish and chips.

I had the most amazing fish and chips in Salisbury,
in a great pub called "The Cloisters" on Exeter street
near the cathedral.
I would definitely go there again.
Crisp, crisp batter, tender fish inside.
It was definitely worth every calorie.

And then there was my biggest weakness- cream teas.
A cream tea is a pot of tea
(peppermint tisane in my case, with milk),
a scone, some jam, and clotted cream.
Clotted cream is a cross between butter and whipped cream.
And it is divine, especially on a scone.
I had entirely too many of these during my visit!
But thanks to walking about 5 miles a day,
at least I didn't gain any weight...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

England and the Picturesque

This small village of Dunster had everything.
Charming fields, nice walks,
cute thatched cottages,
pretty gardens.
I love rural England.

And the fancy vault prize goes to...

I saw a number of gorgeous vaults on my last trip.
It felt as if I were judging a contest.
Here are the results!

The second runner up is the Exeter cathedral nave.
Great carved bosses.

The first runner up is Gloucester abbey's choir.
Terrific perpendicular lierne vaults.

And the winner (drumroll...)
Sherborne abbey choir.
It's not the artificial lighting
(which I unsuccessfully couldn't figure out how to cancel.)
Look at the intricate fans,
all painted in numerous designs.

The best thing about Sherborne abbey is that it was wholly unexpected.
I went to Sherborne to see the almshouses.
And since the abbey was next door,
I just popped on in to look around.
And-- WOW!

I admit that before I use these photos
I intend to rotate them a bit in photoshop.
(But I'm here at the airport doing some quick posts
before my plane leaves,
so no time for photoshop at present...)

Dr. Foster went there too

There's an old rhyme about how "Doctor Foster went to Gloucester."
I don't remember what he did there.
I went to see the cathedral
(quelle surprise!)
Aside from the terrific fan vaults in the cloister,
here are three highlights:
the Perpendicular retrochoir,
the Decorated tomb of Edward II,
and this gorgeous modern glass
in a chapel off the south choir aisle

Hearing Moaning Myrtle in the Monks' Bathroom

This is the monks' washroom at Gloucester Abbey
(now Gloucester cathedral.)
They could wash their hands at the long stone trough
and the water would go down the drain holes.
(Monks always washed their hands before meals.)

This is also, incidentally, the cloister that was used as a film backdrop
for Harry Potter 2, the scenes outside Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
When I visited yesterday, seagulls kept screeching
in the cloister garden outside.
They sounded a bit like someone moaning,
and I had amusing mental images of Moaning Myrtle
streaking through the medieval drains.

Cheddar Gorge

These are a few views of the famous 'Cheddar Gorge.'
There are caves there and cool cliffs.
It is a very pretty drive,
although only a few miles long.
The photos don't do the narrowness of the road justice-
at times the road just squeezes down and the cliffs squeeze in.
Other than that it looks a great deal like Logan canyon back home...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor is highly promoted,
but even all of the tourism doesn't detract.
It is Extremely Cool.
Great views-- both of it,
and from it.
It's only about a mile up to the top
(although it's about a mile of stairs).
I especially liked all the sheep crossing the path--
they keep it grazed so that the trees don't grow up
and screen off the Tor views.
It even looks great on a cloudy day,
which was good,
because the day I had time to hike it was cloudy--
and windy (and how!)

Owl Encounter

I got to hold an owl at Glastonbury Abbey!
(There was a commercial birds of prey company-
pay a small sum to hold a bird and have your picture taken...
the birds looked well cared for, I must add.)
I have to say that holding this tawny owl
was more impressive than the 'King Arthur grave site...'

Ethan, I picked this owl for you,
because it reminded me of Pigwidgeon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Three Spires

okay, these are all 'raw cuts'-
they will look better once I do a bit of photoshop adjusting
(mainly to straighten out the tilt lines)
but I love these spires.
Top: Norwich cathedral,
Middle: Chichester cathedral
(a Victorian rebuild by G.G. Scott,
but still nice)
Bottom: Salisbury cathedral.

Winchester's "Beer Ad" Tombstone

This is a great tombstone.
To read the inscription you will probably
have to enlarge the photo,
but it is worth not only reading the verse,
but also all the notices of renewal.
The folks of Winchester did not want to let
this slip into obscurity!

Two Cats

As I was walking through the cloister of the Great Hospital in Norwich,
I saw this sight...
It was just too perfect.
I laughed and laughed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Academic Vacation

Conferences often have their perks,
and Leeds in particular has workshops, which I really enjoy.
They are often the hands-on, living history sort.
This year I did three (!)--
medieval food tasting (actually yummy!)
medieval dance workshop (I danced, so wasn't taking pictures)
and then the medieval painting.
Now as a painter I can barely color within the lines,
but it was fun to try the techniques of 'pouncing'
(brushing charcoal through small holes in a template paper
onto a surface- in this case treated linen-
and then outlining the holes, connecting the dots,
to form the pattern or drawing),
and mixing pigment with binder,
and get the feel of some of the materials.
Stuff like this I find extremely useful when teaching.
You never know when an anecdote or insight will brighten up a discussion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kirkstall Abbey

The church from the chapter house.

The abbot's quarters, from the infirmary complex.

model of the former Cistercian abbey.

Southeast corner of the cloister range.

Kirkstall is definitely worth a visit.

Mixing Centuries

I went on an excursion today to Harewood House.
(In typical English fashion, the house is spelled 'hare' as in bunny,
but pronounced "HAAR" as in pirate. !)
The house is actually 18th century.
Lovely 18th century, too-- the rooms were all,
or nearly all,
decorated by Robert Adam.
I could have spent hours photographing the ceilings,
but interior photos were not allowed.
I wouldn't have minded this if the gift shop had actually sold
decent quality photos,
but they only had a couple of bad-quality post cards,
and none of the details I found so charming
(like pictures of the griffin plasterwork).
[I really dislike it when some lovely historically significant spot
won't let you take photos
doesn't provide any resource for decent photos of their own.
I mean, I would gladly pay a reasonable sum
for nice pictures of this place-
preferably digital photos that could be used in class....]
After an hour house tour we got to go see the 'medieval' part of the complex
(after all, this was an excursion organized by medievalists.)
This consisted of archaeological trenches on the south lawn.
I am not an archaeologist and know very little about excavation
so it was actually rather interesting
to see the site and hear the explanations.
Mostly what they found were drains.
(Okay, not all drains.
But all the artefacts had been removed,
so drains was what we saw.)
I also enjoyed seeing the charming sheep herd
just below the house garden facade
(though the sheep had left lots of less than charming droppings all over the lawn...)

English Wildflowers

The third day I was here, I found a book on English wildflowers
in a gift shop, for 5 pounds.
So now I can tell you that the top flower is
Lotus corniculatus (common birds-foot trefoil-
which I learned in the US as 'butter and eggs');
the second is calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed-
I would have called this a morning glory,
but apparently that's a totally different species);
the third is
chamerion angustifolium (rosebay willowherb-
which I know as fireweed)
and the last is probably a heliamanthum,
or rock rose.

Thank heavens for Latin names and the internet.
I keep seeing the chamerion angustifolium on the roadsides,
and I was 95% sure it was fireweed,
but the common name from the British book really threw me off.